As most readers know, the media war issue is one I have been following with religious intensity, I wrote the book, Embedded, about it and followed up with the film, WMD. I have also written up a storm about even as some jaded reviewers and columnists insist the issue is moribund, over. I can't tell you how many times I have heard that WMD was released too late even though it was not about the election and deals with a series of ongoing issues.There's nothing quite like starting off a piece with a bit of blatant self-promotion: "I, I, I, I, I." It's all about the writer who in this case, is Danny Schechter. Although as you'll see from the rest of the the piece, it could easily have been anyone on the left, since it provides next to no insight into the Eason Jordan affair.
And yet it keeps coming back, perhaps because the war hasn't gone away. As I reported in recent days, CNN executive Eason Jordan stirred a hornets nest by telling an off-the-record panel at the World Economic Forum that 12 journalists were killed by the US military in Iraq.An audience member, Rebecca Mackinnon, said it was on-the-record. And according to the guidelines for media and bloggers, "All plenary sessions are fully ‘on’ the record. All sessions that are broadcast or webcast are ‘on the record’ (for 2005 that means all sessions in the Congress Hall or Sanada 1 and 2)." Now where was this forum conducted? Sanada 1 and 2. That means it was on-the-record, and all the media should have known it. The WEF's Mark Adams claims that since no mention of it being webcast, broadcast and it wasn't explicitly stated to be on-the-record, it can't have been on-the-record. But check the session summary on his very own site. There's on-the-record quotes from a variety of people there. And it was videotaped. So why were Eason Jordan's comments off-the-record and not worth reporting, while everyone else's where on-the-record despite being made in the same event?
The reaction, to read Howard Kurtz's account in the Washington Post, was SHOCK and denial by people like Senator Chris Dodd and even Congressman Barney Frank. After a blogger broke the confidentiality of the session, Jordan was besieged with attacks from the right with angry demands for proof .Once again, there was no confidentiality in the session. The tactic of resorting to factually deficient statements again and again appears to be popular already here. And why shouldn't Dodd and Frank be shocked? Their military has just been accused of deliberately targeting and murdering journalists by a CNN News executive - who had no proof, no facts, no evidence. Nothing.
Conservative bloggers went into action by criticizing the rest of the media for not covering the story. Their assumption: Jordan is lying.That's not all the assumptions that have been made. Many bloggers believe in the heat of the moment, he made a major embellishment, but since he repeated the allegation multiple times, that might be pushing it. Some bloggers believe Eason Jordan didn't know what he was saying, which is a case supported by his own statements afterwards, but how stupid does a CNN News Executive have to be to not realise that accusing the US Military of targeting at least 12 journalists means that they were deliberately marked for death? And also, since Jordan's story has changed a few times in just two weeks, it's hard not to believe he's either lying or had lied at some point.
As viewers of WMD know, there is a section in the film that asks: "Were Journalists Targeted in Iraq?" It points out that BBC's Kate Adie was told by the Pentagon that independent journalists would be targeted.Schechter covered these accusations on his blog, but Glenn Reynolds shows them why they're wrong: "What the story is really about, though, is the Pentagon warning people who operate satellite uplinks in Iraq that they might be targeted during an attack. Well, yeah. What makes these people think that they're entitled to immunity from what's going on around them in a battle zone? To an anti-radiation missile, a journalist's satellite uplink looks just like a military communications facility. Saying that the Pentagon is "threatening to kill independent journalists" who insist on operating one during a war is like saying the Pentagon is "threatening to kill" people by warning them that if they drive around in tanks, wearing Iraqi uniforms, they might be shot at during an attack. Duh." Also, a check of the transcript itself shows that it's not that they would be targeted, it's that their communications tools will probably be targeted. There's a difference. And never mind the fact that this is one person's word on one unnamed person's word.
It shows how the Al Jazeera office whose coordinates were given to the Pentagon was bombed and its bureau chief Tariq Ayoub was killed. It shows what happened to the Palestine Hotel where two journalists were killed by a tank shell. It interviews one of the journalists who were wounded who asks "why did they target us; what did we do to them?"Al-Jazeera is the closest thing to a terrorist organisation in the media, with the possible exception of Hezbollah's TV station (which happens to be banned in France and America for being a terrorist network.) Plus, there's no proof of deliberate targeting. And since when has a journalist asking a question been conclusive proof of being deliberately targeted?
It reports that press freedom groups and Reuters demanded an investigation that was not forth coming. It concludes with a quote by veteran war correspondent Phillip Knightly, author of "the First Casualty," a book on the history of censorship in war who says that he believed that occasional shots at media sites are "not accidental."Hmm - "he believed" they are "not accidental". Any proof for this claim? This is part of the fundamental problem that Eason Jordan has, which seems to be creeping into his supporters. The burden of proof lies with you guys, since there's no real evidence to say otherwise.
I heard about this statement from a friend who was at the panel. I thought that some new information was on the verge of coming out. So I reached out to Jordan who I once worked around at CNN to ask if he could help me get on CNN to discuss and debate the issue. Our PR wizard Gary Kenton wrote to him thusly:Eason Jordan is offered help here - someone to help his claim - and he ends up knocking it back? There must be a reason for that, probably either that Jordan wants the issue to go away (surely he's not that stupid) or Jordan doesn't want Schechter's help. But who knows.
In WMD Danny asks whether independent journalists might have been targeted by the U.S. military, an issue you addressed at Davos, and setting off a firestorm. We wanted to talk to you about two things:Here we go...
1) We are uncomfortable, as we assume you are, talking about the possible targeting of reporters, but it is too important to ignore. Allowing it to "go away" seems like an abdication of journalistic responsibility. Would you consider scheduling some on-air discussion on some program? The clip from the film deals with the Palestine Hotel incident with original interviewsBasically, this is a promotional grab. CNN should've been all over it! He does have a point though - to make a statement as big as Jordan's and make no attempt to back it up in public is irresponsible. For a news executive to do that is worthy of the axe.
2) WMD is currently in theaters in New York and elsewhere. As you know, it is difficult to make a documentary such as this, no less get a theatrical release. Any assistance you might provide in getting Danny interviews on any CNN outlets would be greatly appreciated. He's a great interview and, as you know, he was part of the start-up team in Atlanta "back in the day" before he went on to ABC News.
Eason, seemingly shaken by all the heat coming down on him for discussing something that many journalists and press freedom groups like the International Federation of Journalists has been discussing, began to withdraw from the controversy he stirred. He wrote back to Gary:All the heat? This section of the article took place before Hannity And Colmes addressed the issue, so how many non right-wing media organisations had actually taken any time to cover the story? The Toledo Blade. That's not really a lot of media heat, in fact, it's next to none at all.
I was not as clear as I should have been during the Davos panel discussion. I was trying to make a distinction between journalists killed being the victims of collateral damage and journalists being killed under different circumstances. No doubt most of the 63 journalist deaths in Iraq fall outside the collateral damage category. I have never felt and never intended to suggest, however, that anyone in the U.S. military meant to kill anyone known to be a journalist. As you will see in the Howard Kurtz Washington Post today, my comments were controversial. While I am pleased the spotlight is on the issue of journalist safety in Iraq, I intend to let others do the talking for a while after I gave several interviews and statements on the subject. I will let my colleagues know of Danny's availability as an on-air guest. I thank you and wish you well.- Eason. [Emphasis mine]The section in bold shows the reason why Eason Jordan didn't want anyone sticking up for him - cause he knows what he said is completely impossible to prove. So why did he slander the US Military?
I was hoping CNN might call and we reached out to Lou Dobbs and Aaron Brown to no avail.Of course not, it's called digging yourself an even bigger hole. Come on Danny, you should know this stuff.
I guess CNN was not interested in taking on this fight.
But Fox News was. Fox is always at war with CNN which it brands as a liberal network, a label CNN does not want or like. And so Fox scheduled a segment and asked if I was interested. When I told them I had a film documenting the attack on the Palestine Hotel, they were doubly interested. Frozen out by CNN and most TV networks who we bombarded with Info on WMD (save Court TV) I entered the Fox arena the way Christians were fed to the lions.I find it interesting that only FOX News will take a rabid lefty onto a program to stick up for CNN and speak out against the military. No other network wanted to know him. Interesting.
Needless to say Fox wanted to trash Eason, not the killing of journalists. They showed a very clip of my film with the sound muted but I did get to make a few points and plug the movie the best I could expect in circumstances of hostility..Oh of course. Read the transcript for yourself. Even better, watch the video. Let's look at two of the questions Schechter was asked:
- You're saying that our troops are targeting journalists?
- But do you have any proof that our troops targeted these guys? Or that any American--name names--do you know any American that supported a policy that would target journalists?
Now they're not exactly "Tell us why Eason Jordan should be killed" questions. Plus, Schechter had more than an ample opportunity to get his side of the case across - there are 1,436 words in the transcript - Schechter said 607 - only 48 less than Hannity and Bozell, the two conservatives, combined. That means that more than 43% of the words spoken in a four-man panel were spoken by Schechter, who complained that he'd "like to try if [he] could get a word in edgewise [sic]". You had your chance, and what happened?
Sean Hannity took some predictable whacks along with Brent Bozell but I held my ground and was still standing at the bell. I would score the round as a draw.Once you take into account a difficulty level (Schechter had the most words), I reckon you lost. In the words of Bill Roggio: "Eason Jordan must cringe every time a Danny Schechter rises to his defense. His arguments are incoherent, rooted in conspiracy theory and devoid of any factual basis. An incomplete or insufficient investigation is offered up as proof of malice."
It was hard to shift the conversation back to the real issue – the killing of journalists and not what Eason Jordan said or didn't say – no one there seemed to know or really care in what was really a bash CNN exercise. You can read what some Fox regulars thought of my performance in today's letters section.I've already addressed that point, but this shows the whole "fake but accurate" line coming out again. It doesn't matter if you've got no evidence for something, it should be investigated! Of course! And as for bashing CNN? CNN appears in the sixth word of the transcript, and never again. The film was mentioned 4 times by comparison. And one last point: in the transcript you admitted that the US military is not targeting journalists - but now they are? Or they were before? Like Eason Jordan, your story doesn't add up.
Schechter's disregard for the facts and distortion of what anyone can find out for themselves in this column makes me wonder what 'facts' he'll be presenting in the rest of his documentary.
(Cross-posted to The House Of Wheels. The background of the Eason Jordan story can be found here.)